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Pacific Ocean Becoming a Lifeless Desert, Sailor Reports

The Oceans are in a drastic state. Fish and sea creatures are dying from over fishing and a multitude of human by-products accumulating in the oceans. According to the World Wildlife Fund, three quarters of the world’s fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can be replaced.  Scientists at Vanderbilt University and New York Health department have discovered rising ocean acidity and a resulting decline in crustaceous life.

Yachtsman Ivan MacFadyen offered a firsthand account of the devastation of sea life after revisiting a course of travel from Australia through the eastern Pacific that he had made a decade earlier. “In 2003, I caught a fish every day,” MacFadyen told The Guardian. “Ten years later to the day, sailing almost exactly the same course, I caught nothing.”

MacFadyen suggested a contributing catalyst for this decline in aquatic life was the huge amounts of trash and debris he observed, which formed a thick 20-meter thick layer in some places. He had not seen anything like it in his earlier voyage. Whatever the cause, fish are among the last wild foods and their decline is an indicator of ocean health.   “I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

Sources:

Oliver Milman, “Yachtsman describes horror at ‘dead’, rubbish strewn Pacific Ocean,” The Guardian, October 21, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/21/yachtsman-describes-horror-at-dead-rubbish-strewn-pacific-ocean.

Lindsay Abrams, “One sailor’s heartbreaking voyage,” Salon, October 21, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/10/21/it_felt_as_if_the_ocean_itself_was_dead_one_sailors_heartbreaking_voyage.

“Unsustainable Fishing,” World Wildlife Fund, no date, http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/problems_fishing/.

Matthew G. Burgess, Stephen Polasky, David Tilman, “Predicting overfishing and extinction threats in multispecies fisheries,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, July 30, 2013, http://www.pnas.org/content/110/40/15943.abstract

Student Researcher: Frank Leal (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

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